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The Space Heater Analysis

Author: Poetry of Sharon Olds Type: Poetry Views: 152

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The New YorkerJanuary 22, 2001On the then-below-zero day, it was on,

near the patients' chair, the old heater

kept by the analyst's couch, at the end,

like the infant's headstone that was added near the foot

of my father's grave. And it was hot, with the almost

laughing satire of a fire's heat,

the little coils like hairs in Hell.

And it was making a group of sick noises-

I wanted the doctor to turn it off

but I couldn't seem to ask, so I just

stared, but it did not budge. The doctor

turned his heavy, soft palm

outward, toward me, inviting me to speak, I

said, "If you're cold-are you cold? But if it's onfor me..." He held his palm out toward me,

I tried to ask, but I only muttered,

but he said, "Of course," as if I had asked,

and he stood up and approached the heater, and then

stood on one foot, and threw himself

toward the wall with one hand, and with the other hand

reached down, behind the couch, to pull

the plug out. I looked away,

I had not known he would have to bend

like that. And I was so moved, that he

would act undignified, to help me,

that I cried, not trying to stop, but as if

the moans made sentences which bore

some human message. If he would cast himself toward the

outlet for me, as if bending with me in my old

shame and horror, then I would rest

on his art-and the heater purred, like a creature

or the familiar of a creature, or the child of a familiar,

the father of a child, the spirit of a father,

the healing of a spirit, the vision of healing,

the heat of vision, the power of heat,

the pleasure of power.


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